Four-star PRELUDES in concert available for three weeks only

Back in May lucky audiences were able to see a live-streamed semi-staged concert version of PRELUDES by Tony Award nominee Dave Malloy from Southwark Playhouse, the venue which originally hosted the show’s highly-successful run late in 2019. Thanks to the brilliant editing of Bartek Podkowa it’s now available again to stream on Stream.Theatre from 9th to the 30th December.

Set within the hypnotised mind of composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, this highly original musical play focuses on his writer’s block and his successful application of hypnotherapy to free him from his blocks. In my review I summed it up thus : “Mesmerising hybrid musical explores Rachmaninoff’s journey through hypnotherapy to wellness in a fascinating show with moments of sublime musicality”.

You can read my four-star review of this show here and then read what a practicing Clinical Hypnotherapist thought of it here .

The show is available daily at 7.30pm up to and including December 22nd, then from December 23rd to 30th it is available on-demand. Tickets are a mere £12.50 and I highly recommend this truly mesmerising piece of musical theatre which is unlike anything else you have ever seen.

Check the schedule and book tickets here


PRELUDES to be livestreamed from Southwark Playhouse

One of the top ten best shows of 2019, Dave Malloy’s mesmerising PRELUDES returns to the Southwark Playhouse for a short run of streamed concert performances in May.

The story deals with legendary composer Rachmaninoff and his struggle with writers block which lead to him being treated by a hypnotherapist in the late nineteenth century.

Nominated for two Stage Debut Awards 2020 for actor Tom Noyes and director Alex Sutton, PRELUDES is an elegantly, intriguingly constructed work which grips the viewer as few other shows have done. Its often sublime musicality makes its a must-see show. The superb 2019 cast have been reassembled which will ensure the incredibly high quality of this streamed production.

You can read my four star review of PRELUDES here

Read what a clinical hypnotherapist thought of PRELUDES here

Book for PRELUDES here


Review: GHOST QUARTET

IN BRIEF Potent and haunting song cycle, performed with heart and soul

After Dave Malloy’s singular PRELUDES at Southwark Playhouse last month, the collective appetite was well and truly whetted for his GHOST QUARTET.

It doesn’t disappoint. Mellow, playful, inventive, GHOST QUARTET is a delight- a captivating song cycle intercut with story fragments. This is a show more about the act of storytelling than the actual stories themselves.

The circular stage of this new intimate in the round venue is a veritable treasure trove in itself- Simon Kenny’s set is a clutter of musical instruments, furniture, steamer trunks. Not an inch of the stage is unused over the 90 minutes running time. The four performers circle, climb and reconfigure the elements, whilst also revealing items hidden in seats and cases. The show doesn’t let up with little theatrical surprises: a dizzying array of eclectic, unusual instruments – mostly stringed and percussion – and effects equipment appear and are played with skill.

The announced track listings in this song cycle help to giving the show some kind of structure. The story fragments (told through the songs) are intriguing but it gets a little tricksy if you try to follow it too literally. You just need to relax into it, as this is a show more concerned with the concept more than character development or other traditional musical theatre tick-boxes.

From the outset, the ensemble of four actor/musicians create a warm and inclusive ambiance, at times directly taking to and mingling with the audience, and at others actually allowing them to carry the stage. We particularly enjoyed the whiskey number Four Friends- and the audience participation in raising a glass of the hard stuff was most enthusiastic!

But it’s the range and quality of Dave Malloy’s songs which most delights- from the exquisite Hero to the laid- back bonhomie of Four Friends, this is an ever-intriguing set of songs that constantly surprises.

All four perfectly-cast performers play and sing with abundant skill. Each have their standout moments whilst working harmoniously as an ensemble to create a rich musical texture.  Carly Bawden brings all her extraordinary skill to songs including Star Child- wistful and fragile, and Hero – exquisitely sung and haunting. Zubin Varla’s smoky lower register is beautifully worked in the support of some great piano playing – especially the number entitled Monk.

Dave Malloy’s skills as a composer are complemented by the direction of Bill Buckhurst who has produced a show with much care and attention to detail, good to look at and listen to. The ninety minutes simply flew by.

Delightfully potent, intriguing with a mellow aftertaste, GHOST QUARTET is a classic blend that I shall be imbibing again very soon. Cheers!

GHOST QUARTET Plays the Boulevard Theatre until January 4th. Details and tickets here

VIEWS: PRELUDES as seen by a Hypnotherapist

PRELUDES is a moving and intelligent musical about the power of therapy and music. The show features a hypnotherapist who helps the composer through his problems. I thought it would be interesting to get a practising hypnotherapist’s view of the show, and so I took along my friend Carlos Gouveia who is an RTT Hypnotherapist. I am sure that you will find his thoughts interesting in this, the next instalment of the VIEWS series.

PRELUDES is a fascinating musical journey through the mind of composer Sergei Rachmaninoff as he struggles with writers’ block at the end of the nineteenth century. The way that he chooses to face his fears is through hypnotherapy (the use of hypnotism for therapeutic purposes), a relatively new science at that time. Hypnotherapy in various forms had existed through many centuries, but when reintroduced by Franz Mesmer earlier in the late eighteenth century it began to be regarded with more respect as a scientific therapy.

During hypnosis, a person is said to have heightened focus and concentration, and a dramatically enhanced capacity to respond to suggestion. The application of hypnosis as a psychotherapy tool to deal with deep rooted issues in the subconscious mind can bring about enormously positive changes. What is surprising is that even today, certain misunderstandings and misconceptions about this therapy have lingered.

It is incredibly rare to see hypnotherapy given centre stage in a theatrical work of any kind, let alone a musical, and that is why I was prompted to write about it.

Writer/composer Dave Malloy has created a significant show which is not at all showy or blasé; no, this is a very thoughtful and almost meditative show. The audience I saw it with were as focussed as the clients in a therapy session, and their reactions quiet and thoughtful. The show gives no “built-in” pauses for applause except at the conclusion of each act, another highly unusual move which allows an acute maintenance of focus upon the subject throughout.

What is fascinating is that, although this is a show about a musical genius, it is principally about a human issue that we have all encountered: failure. This helps to make the show enormously relatable. We can identify elements of ourselves in Rachmnainoff’s struggle; the negativity, the doubt, the hopes, and loved ones rooting for us. Malloy has given us a very human Rachmaninoff, played expertly by Keith Ramsay.

It is dangerous when someone finds themselves dominated by a chain of thought that tells them that they are not good enough, that they don’t deserve much, and that other people look down on them or tolerate them out of politeness. When they find themselves snagging, hindering or impeding their wellbeing on memories of things they did wrong, or relationships that they didn’t get right, that is the time to seek help.

To ask you directly, reader; do you feel that you have to be a success in life just like you think someone else is -and are you consequently critical of yourself? This place in psychology is called ‘the inner Tyrant’. This was Rachmaninoff’s reality for a long period.

The show portrays the numbing state of depression and anxiety Rachmaninoff was experiencing very convincingly, climaxed at the start of the second act and skilfully performed by Norton James playing the demon in Rachmaninoff’s head. This feeling of being uncomfortable was palpable within the audience as I took time to observe my fellow theatregoers’ facial expressions of unease and discomfort. All of the actors gave highly-committed performances, with Rebecca Caine playing Dahl the hypnotist giving a solid and compassionate portrayal, conducting the sessions calmly whilst effectively supporting and reframing Rachmaninoff‘s state of mind and beliefs about the earlier traumatic event in his career.

Talking to several audience members after the show, as well as being delighted to have seen such a mould-breaking show, several said that they almost felt that they had undergone a sort of therapy too. And as mentioned before, the intriguing thing about the show is that it deals with failure- allowing the audience to share in some degree of their own catharsis as a valuable by-product of seeing the show.

PRELUDES is a brilliant piece of theatre which helps people understand the immense value of hypnotherapy – both historically, and today in helping millions of people live happier and more fulfilled lives, less burdened by the past and more energised by the future.

Of course, hypnotherapy – along with all types of therapy – has evolved dramatically over the last century. In my own branch of hypnotherapy, RTT (Rapid Transformational Therapy), I use a pioneering combination of four therapies – hypnosis, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and psychotherapy – to deliver extraordinary, permanent change from physical, emotional and psychological pain by reframing my clients’ beliefs, habits and emotions that lie deep in their subconscious mind. This gives each client immense value – and it gives me enormous satisfaction to help them.

If this show has prompted you to think about the potential value of hypnotherapy in your own life, please feel free to drop me a line at hello@changeideserve.com or call 07870148504 for a free, initial chat.


Review: PRELUDES

IN BRIEF Mesmerising hybrid musical explores Rachmaninoff’s journey through hypnotherapy to wellness in a fascinating show with moments of sublime musicality

PRELUDES is intriguingly subtitled “A musical fantasia set in the hypnotised mind of Sergei Rachmaninoff” and it lives up to that promise in all departments. Ambitious, adventurous, and stuffed with ideas, this is a real one-of-a-kind. And at a moment when mental health issues are being recognised for their universality, this welcome show about triumph over illness strikes a hopeful note.

Dave Malloy’s boundary-pushing, shape-shifting musical deals with the Russian composer Rachmaninoff’s writer’s block brought on by a huge public embarrassment (a disastrous first performance of his first Symphony) at an early age. The show opens as he begins hypnotherapy sessions in an attempt to work through his three-year long block which has brought him financially and spiritually low, and to resume his early promise as a “big deal composer”.

Nominally set in Russia in 1900 and in Rachmaninoff’s mind, the show mostly disregards setting and timeframe to focus on emotion, thoughts and feelings in a refreshing, unique way. Intriguingly, we feel that we are -in some way- actually inside Rach’s mind. This surrealism is destabilising as we, like Rach, never quite know where we are or why things are happening, which brings with it a slightly heady feeling that anything could happen next. “Do you really think that you and I are talking right now?” one of the heroic characters asks Rach.

Cleverly splitting the Rachmaninoff character between two artists, Rach the composer (Keith Ramsay) and Rachmaninoff the performer (Tom Noyes) allows both men to do what they do best.

Inside Rach’s head, he encounters/recalls disappointing versions of heroic folk such as Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky, Chekhov and more (all played by Steven Serlin) as he slowly works through his thoughts and demons, punctuated by an unsettling encounter with overwhelming negativity at the start of act two.

Ever-near, Rach’s fiancée Natalya is a caring and concerned lover who feels powerless to help, expressed in her cri de coeur, an exquisite rendering of her song ‘Natalya’ which closes the first act.

Keith Ramsay’s edgy, lost, bewildered Rach is played with a vulnerable intensity; his breakthrough at the end of the piece leaves him visibly shaken, which communicates emotionally through the auditorium. He masterfully carries the long, detailed musical and dialogue passages describing his day (at the start of the show) and towards the end, reliving the fateful evening when his reputation was damaged, his breakdown is vivid, described meticulously, at length; he is impressively on top of his material. An engrossing performance which held the audience rapt.

Rebecca Caine as Dahl the hypnotherapist provides an anchor, authority and assurance, and her guidance illuminates passages of Rach’s journey, using her superb operatic voice to great effect at the show’s climax. Georgia Louise as Nataliya is moving in her solo piece which closes act one, sings exquisitely, and throughout she works outstandingly in harmony with Ramsay’s Rach to evidence the couple’s closeness and her feelings of sadness.

Composer/Lyricist, Writer and Orchestrator Malloy selects pieces of Rachmaninoff’s compositions, along with other classical composers’ work, brought to his own inspirations to craft a free-flowing, highly inclusive and ambitious score which takes in everything from classical to trance to electro to religious forms. And it works.

The music rises and falls throughout, echoing waves of emotion, while a pulsing heartbeat reminds us that this is a very human work. At times the music even becomes an enchanting underscore for the story being told about it. It is obvious that much love and care has been poured into this score.

Moments of sublime musicality – such as the wedding sequence -were beautifully, simply staged and heightened by singing of the highest order. We definitely need a recording from this superb cast!

Director Alex Sutton has created a mesmerising, meditative show that is a deeply satisfying journey in itself. A simple but effective set employs thin bands of lighting cannily to produce interesting rhythmic movement, complementing the subtle pulses of the music.

Finally, the audience’s satisfaction in the journey that Rach has made, coming through his own hell, is palpable and moving. A fascinating and complex portrait of therapy’s value to help untangle life’s setbacks, PRELUDES reminds us that these issues are universal and timeless – and that they can be managed and overcome, so that we can all fulfil our potential. Highly recommended.

PRELUDES plays at Southwark Playhouse until 12 October. Information and tickets here